Ancestry: Myth, Rumor, Darkness

You do not know what you’ve missed if you’ve never jumped into the ancestry discovery pool. Take my genealogy experience as a cautionary tale unless, of course, you enjoy confusion and voids.

To keep this as clear and concise as possible, I’ll sum it up this way. My paternal grandfather is unknown. My grandmother became pregnant at a time when a woman was ostracized for being pregnant and unmarried, and guy apparently wasn’t interested in a family. He disappeared.

The man I knew as my grandfather married my grandmother to give her unborn child a surname. He was a gentleman and a heck of a grandpa. They were together for almost fifty years before his time came.

The circumstances of my father’s conception and one or two other little ancestral issues stopped any discussion of research into Dad’s family tree. The story is slightly different on my mother’s side of the family.

Her family tree was a thing of legend in some ways. The family history claimed my grandmother was a direct descendant of a Native American couple born in Texas and raised in Louisiana. He was Choctaw, and she was Cherokee. The family was proud of their roots and had many stories about their Native American cousins, some of whom became successful businessmen.

Unfortunately, there were some dark stories about my maternal grandfather and his side of the family. So, his family history was mostly ignored. Everyone just held on to the proud Native American side of the family history and did not say much about the side that included the sad and premature ending of my grandfather’s life.

With a background such as this, I was almost forced to explore the issue myself. If my natural curiosity was not enough to make me examine my family tree, the late 1960s gave me another reason.

My defense industry employer asked me to verify my Native American ancestry so they could list me as a minority. Later, one of my children asked the same thing because a friend with distant Native American ancestors reaped significant benefits from the heritage.

Unfortunately, even with the help of several genealogy services and DNA testing, my verifiable ancestry ends with my maternal grandmother and my paternal great-grandparents. On the other hand, my DNA regularly hints at people who might be fourth, fifth, or more distant cousins. Of course, my DNA also indicates I have Asian, European, Neanderthal, and Denisova ancestry.

That last two sets of anecstors are interesting. I’ve been called a Neanderthal a couple of times, but I never knew about Denisovans until my DNA results came back.

© 2023



About S. Eric Jackson

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3 Responses to Ancestry: Myth, Rumor, Darkness

  1. The Hinoeuma says:

    My significant other received a 23&Me “spit in the tube” box from his daughter at Christmas. It continues to sit on the coffee table. She & her hubby did the spit test and they appear to be kin to nearly everyone, Neanderthals included.

    He claims Native American blood as his mother’s mother had a Native American parent (whatever tribe is/was in Missouri). He has quite a bit of the house decorated with NA artifacts…bows, arrows, walking sticks, turkey feathers, obsidian tomahawks, an animal skin on the coffee table and turquoise necklaces. I, too, have Native American blood, though a little less than he is. Going up my mother’s line, a maternal uncle (my mom has four brothers) has made it very clear that he remembers a great aunt that was very Native American, following thru my grandfather’s side. I hail from the state that had the “Croatoan” etched into the tree when the “Colony” became “Lost.” I am also a direct descendant of the Clan MacPherson. I am “tribal” from several directions.

    Back in the 80s, I had a first cousin (once removed thru my mother) that dove, head first into the genealogy swimming pool. He managed to find 5th cousins for my maternal grandmother without benefit of recent technology. It must have been an enormous undertaking. I, somehow, wound up with all of the paperwork…pages upon pages.

    I am waiting to see if my SO spits.

    • The genealogical game can be interesting. Reportedly, my paternal grandmother engaged someone to investigate my grandfather’s family history. That is the grandfather I knew, not the unknown man who apparently was my biological grandfather. She thought, or hoped, my grandpa was a descendant of President Andrew Jackson. However, she stopped looking when she was informed one of my granddad’s ancestors was hanged for stealing horses in the late 19th Century. Sometimes it’s better to rely on family legend if you wish to feel good about your ancestors. For the record, I did two DNA tests. The results were not identical or even close in some cases.

      • The Hinoeuma says:

        Yeah. The truth about ancestors/grandparents/parents can be hard to swallow. Imagine how Woody Harrelson feels.

        When Ken’s daughter was rambling on about DNA and 5th cousins, I could tell Ken didn’t care. He is more comfortable with the verbal hand me downs than anything his saliva could tell him. He wants nothing to do with his paternal side, preferring to see himself as his stepfather’s child. Both men were powerful…dad was a hotel magnate, rescuing them from bad management and stepdad was a Federal Prosecutor, appointed by Kennedy & Johnson. Momma was pretty enough to attract “power.”

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